Miriam Lord: Commissioner Cat still can’t get no satisfaction

EU commissioner pays first official visit to Oireachtas since his elevation to EU post

EU commissioner Phil Hogan: “I cannot get satisfaction from the Greek authorities or even get replies to letters sent since last Christmas.” Photograph: Patrick Bolger

EU commissioner Phil Hogan: “I cannot get satisfaction from the Greek authorities or even get replies to letters sent since last Christmas.” Photograph: Patrick Bolger

 

The impending arrival of the commissioner for agriculture sparked panic in the Oireachtas catering division on Tuesday as worried staff rushed to hide all the cream.

Since he secured the big job in Europe, Phil Hogan has become a one-man dairy crisis. After he graced Leinster House with his presence, it was generally agreed that Happy Hogan is the living embodiment of the Commissioner Cat who got the cream.

This was his first official visit to the Oireachtas. He appeared before the agriculture committee and then nipped up to address the Seanad and take part in a short question and answer session.

The Senators were so gratified by his visit that almost half of them turned up to listen.

Commissioner Cat was welcomed by Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke, who later hosted a dinner in the Members’ dining room for his VIP guest.

The Senators were commendably gracious in Phil’s presence, given that he was the Government minister responsible for the failed 2013 referendum to do away with their meal-ticket.

It was left to David Norris to crash the mutual admiration party. He got stuck into Commissioner Cat over the EU’s handling of the Greek debt crisis. “What is happening to Greece is a reproach to democracy and a disgrace to this country. This country stuck the knife into Greece as hard as any other European country and I think it is utterly regrettable.”

But Hogan disagreed. “The Greek government has not always conveyed to its people the type of flexibility that the European Commission was showing in recent months to the Greek people. It has not always been honest with the Greek people,” he said.

“When I am trying to give money and support to rural development programmes in Greece, I cannot get satisfaction from the Greek authorities or even get replies to letters sent since last Christmas. There is more to this matter than what meets the eye or appears in the newspapers.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s Denis Landy wanted to talk about hurling and asked the commissioner to support a recently-launched campaign to achieve European heritage status for the game of hurling.

Fianna Fáil’s Denis O’Donovan, speaking in riddles, also had a request: “I suggest the commissioner throw a glance at the plight of the Irish greyhound industry. I am sure he will remember a special sporting event during which an affable Kerryman – and friend of both of us – said we had to be careful when the bunny was running and place our bets. The bunny could be trapped regarding the Irish greyhound industry.

“As a nominee to the Seanad of the Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders Federation, it would be remiss of me not to mention that important moment.”

Whatever it was.

“We’ll let the hare sit,” replied Big Phil.

His visit to Leinster House was rounded off in the usual way – with a row and several noses out of joint.

Cathaoirleach Burke invited a cross-party selection to Commissioner Cat’s dinner. On the list was Maurice Cummins (leader of the Seanad) and Paul Coghlan (Government whip), Seán Barrett from the university Senators, Jillian Van Turnhout from the Independents, Fianna Fáil’s Leas-Cathaoirleach Denis O’Donovan along with Sinn Féin’s Kathryn Reilly and Big Phil’s former constituency colleague and fellow Kilkenny cat, Pat O’Neill. Two TDs were also on the list – chief whip Paul Kehoe and the commissioner’s golfing buddy, Labour’s Jack Wall.

Meanwhile, a number of Senators and TDs sulked in the bar because they weren’t invited.

Profiteroles and strawberries for dessert. Commissioner Cat scoffed all the cream.

It’s true what they say about cats falling on their feet.

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